Jeremy Hellickson, Neil Walker Accept Qualifying Offers

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PHILADELPHIA, PA - SEPTEMBER 17: Pitcher Jeremy Hellickson #58 of the Philadelphia Phillies in action against the Miami Marlins during a game at Citizens Bank Park on September 17, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Hellickson pitched a complete game shutout as the Phillies defeated the Marlins 8-0. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)

Just hours prior to the 5:00 p.m. ET deadline, one player accepted a qualifying offer. Jeremy Hellickson accepted the $17.2 million offer the Philadelphia Phillies had extended earlier this offseason. He and Neil Walker, who accepted his $17.2 million offer from the New York Mets, are the only players to accept qualifying offers this season.

Jeremy Hellickson, Neil Walker Accept Qualifying Offers

The 29-year-old right-handed pitcher is coming off his best season since 2012. Hellickson, as the de facto ace of a young, inexperienced Phillies pitching staff, won 12 games in 2016, and coupled that with a 3.71 ERA and a 1.15 WHIP. His 3.0 WAR represents his highest such mark since 2011. A career-3.90 pitcher, Hellickson pitched slightly above his average, and the Phillies will have to hope he can repeat that in 2017.

Walker, 31, had one of the strongest seasons of his career. He tied his career-high in home runs (23), and set new highs in slugging percentage (.476) and OPS (.823). Most impressively, he did that in just 113 games. Had he been able to play a full season, he would almost certainly have put up more career-best numbers.

With Hellickson off the market, an already-sparse crop of free agent pitchers just got even worse. For Hellickson, this was likely the best deal he could have hoped for. While other teams reportedly had him at the top of their free agent list, none were willing to sign him once the qualifying offer was extended and the first round draft pick compensation was attached.

Why They Accepted

The rest of the players extended qualifying offers, Jose Bautista, Dexter Fowler, Justin Turner, Yoenis Cespedes, Ian Desmond, Mark TrumboEdwin Encarnacion and Kenley Jansen, are the bigger names in this relatively weak free agent class. They are assured of receiving more money on the market than they would have gotten had they accepted their qualifying offers. With that in mind, it should hardly come as a shock that they rejected their offers.

However, though both had strong campaigns, there was no such guarantee for Hellickson and Walker. After watching players like Fowler sign for less money than they would have gotten had they accepted their qualifying offers last season, they were understandably wary of rejecting their offers. Until last season, no player had accepted a qualifying offer, and it has been shown to harm players significantly in negotiations. With the current Collective Bargaining Agreement set to expire on December 1, players will likely push to remove, or at least modify, the qualifying offer system.

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